If - the first part of the If Choices Unravel trilogy. If focuses on Karla, who decides to make a new start in life, only to have her world potentially collapse. We're excited about this new novelist and couldn't wait to ask her some questions!
Tell us about your latest novel in 15 words or less.
A hot drunken mess of a drama that will make you laugh and cry.
What inspired you to write If?
I never consciously decided that I wanted to be a writer. Growing up I wanted to be an artist - then a singer. Writing happened by accident! The idea behind If actually came about about 20 years ago. A friend and myself had this idea of writing the same story from two sisters points of view, Karla's and Ella's - just for fun. We worked out a vague plot, which barely resembles the final plot now. I started Karla's story but I'm not too sure if she ever got around to starting Ella's. I got to about chapter 7 and decided it was rubbish and left it. It wasn't until years later I happened to find it when unpacking after moving house. I read through it, and will admit that it needed a lot of work but the bones of a good story were there, so I decided to start re-writing it. A friend read it on a weekly basis, chapter by chapter and gave me both positive and negative feedback. Several edits later I felt ready to send it off. I received numerous rejection letters as is often the case but finally managed to secure myself an agent. My computer then died a tragic irreparable death. At the time, I felt it was game over. A simple case of not meant to be! The agent obviously lost interest and it took a good six years before I decided to re-write it again - from scratch, and actually I think that was a good thing. After time apart from it I could look upon it with fresh eyes and managed to fine tune the plot to run a little smoother whilst writing the characters with more empathy ( I hope) which is something I felt the earlier drafts lacked.
Where do you do most of your writing?
Most of my writing is done at home, however, I always have a notepad in my bag to jot things down because I'll run scenes in my head repeatedly when walking to and from places. I have been known to scribble snippets down on napkins and till receipts before too. At some point, all these little things link up and create a story.
What is your favourite book?
Ooh there are far too many to pick one. One of the first books I fell in love with was Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews. I also loved Savages by Shirley Conran, My sisters keeper by Jodi Piccoult and the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella because I could relate to that character so much. I like books that provoke emotion whether that is making me laugh or making me cry. I hope that If does both.
Which part of If did you enjoy writing the most?
Karla's character was always a pleasure to write and against all the advice I had been given, I let her take control of the story (that's how it ended up as a trilogy rather than the one book it was intended to be). I particularly enjoyed writing the scenes between Karla and John (not so much that scene, but just the way she reacted to him in general and the conflict between them.) I also loved writing her as she started to unravel towards the end of If. It was hard sometimes to remember that she was just a figment of my imagination. I have shed many a tear for her.
Who is your favourite literary heroine?
That is an easy one, Karla from If. She goes through so much and although she is perhaps a little too impulsive at times which gets her into trouble, I think her strength is admirable, and even at her lowest points she still shows compassion towards others.
Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published writers?
If you want to write, write and don't give up. Get inside your characters, know them inside out and love them for all their faults. If you love them, you readers will too. Also, trust your instincts - It is your story, tell it how you want to hear it.
Are you working on anything else at the moment and if so, can you tell us?
I am half way through the rewrite of Choices - the sequel to If. The three books create one title - If Choices Unravel. The general theme of the story is learning to live with the consequences of the choices we make, and what happens if they come back to bite us on the arse (by we, I really mean Karla). They are all written from Karla's view point and span twenty years of her life. Choices will hopefully be out in June and Unravel in December. After that, who knows! I will have to decide if there is another story in me to tell. Or maybe I will become a singer after all, haha!
You can keep up to date with my progress and get sneak peeks on my Facebook and Twitter.
If by Lenny Smith
In life there will always be choices and the right choice is often the hardest one to make, but it will never be as hard as living with an eternal "If". Life was getting a little bit out of control for Karla Berkeley but when her father dies she is given the chance to wipe the slate clean, make a new start and leave her troubled past behind her. For Karla, this means taking down the emotional barrier she has hidden behind since she was seven years old and finally allowing someone into her heart. But there is another love in Karla's life, one that threatens to destroy her and she finds that life is soon spinning back out of her control. As her world starts to collapse around her, it seems that there is only one tragic choice left to make!